Ending Unemployment and Poverty and Increasing Sustainability without Bothering about ‘Capitalism’*

Stephen Yearwood
4 min readApr 29, 2023

What are your priorities?

For me, unemployment, poverty, and sustainability are the primary issues regarding the outcomes for society of the existing economic system. The first two of those have never been eliminated and the process that is the economy does produce wastes as well as other environmental effects that are harmful for humans and all life.

Those harms are sometimes simple and direct and are sometimes more convoluted. I also accept the conclusion that those harms are approaching a ‘critical mass’, making time a critical factor.

The economy is the process of producing and acquiring goods and services. Whatever one thinks of capitalism, it self-evidently dominates the existing economy on a global scale.

So my position is this: clearly, eliminating unemployment and poverty and increasing environmental sustainability are all important goals, but the implications of the environmental harms we face make sustainability the ‘critical path’, the absolute priority. The sooner we can start increasing sustainability, the better. If the fastest way to increase sustainability also eliminates capitalism, so be it. If the fastest way to increase sustainability involves the preservation of capitalism, so be that. If we can at the same time eliminate unemployment and poverty, then all the better.

There is a way to increase sustainability while eliminating unemployment and poverty that can be accomplished in any nation literally overnight, i.e., with a single legislative Act. In the U.S., where I have always lived, that means one Act of Congress. As soon as it could be implemented it would transform the outcomes for society of the existing economy — without having to bother about capitalism per se. [In any nation on the planet, if enough people will advocate for such an Act, one will be enacted.]

To eliminate unemployment and poverty the basic idea is to create money as needed to fund a guaranteed minimum income, in an amount on which a person could actually live. That could be done through the existing central bank (of which every nation has one). To see how that can address sustainability does require reading one more paragraph.

Various paradigms involving that basic idea could surely be devised. In the paradigm this author has developed, that income would not be paid to everyone, or even all adults, but any (adult) citizen could become eligible for the income. The same process would be used to fund government — all government, from local to central — and thereby eliminate using taxes and public debt for that purpose (as long as government did not exceed anywhere its allotted funding). Obviously, the paradigm must include safeguards against inflation. That way, though, as opposed to every nation having the goal of maximizing total output (in order to maximize employment, total income, and the collection of taxes), the output of goods and services would be governed, passively but effectively, by demographics. That would greatly enhance environmental sustainability in a systemic way. Any implications re. ‘capitalism’ are beside the point.

[For those for whom income inequality is the decisive issue, this paradigm could be used to address that as well — and further enhance sustainability — and still not necessarily eliminate capitalism (defined as I think it should be, i.e., ‘mass production of goods and services for sales in geographically extended markets’), much less the more general market-based economic tenets that can exist with or without capitalism (defined in that limited way): the profit motive and private ownership/control of the means of production along with having supply and demand determining prices, those determining in turn the deployment of capital on whatever scale it might be deployed (the point being that those elements of a market-based economy are separate from and independent of ‘capitalism’).]

However that basic idea might be approached, there are inevitably a great many details involved. Some details could only be resolved if/when a paradigm were to be actually implemented. In this author’s particular approach to that basic idea, all details that can be resolved this side of actually implementing it have been resolved. In other words, this is not something this author came up with this morning. It has been rigorously developed, fully thought-out, and thoroughly critiqued. [There seems to be a tendency for people to assume that no author of any idea can be capable of thinking critically about it, but that is simply not the case in this case.]

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*Many conceptions (much less perceptions) of capitalism abound, but for purposes of this article “capitalism” can be whatever anyone who might be reading this article.

For anyone interested in gleaning more of the details about the paradigm I have developed, the best place to start might be “Permanent ‘Quantitative Easing’.” It is brief (a “4 min read”), makes an important point about money in the context of this paradigm, and at the end has links to “Same Economy, Way Better Outcomes for Society” and “Paradigm Shift.” The former focuses on details regarding the implementation of the paradigm (with the U.S. as the illustrative example) while the latter relates the paradigm in a much more technical but more generic way. For more income equality there is “The Unnecessariness of Marxism” (for society to go where Marx foresaw). All linked articles are in Medium, but not behind the paywall.

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Stephen Yearwood

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid: M.A. in political economy (where philosophy and economics intersect) with a focus in money/distributive justice